Chippewa Valley Street Ministry, 04-27-2018
We have been hearing a lot of relief expressed by our friends who are without permanent shelter in the recent warm-up of the weather. This winter has been especially rough for them in many ways: length of the cold season, the large amount and frequency of snow, and the large number of people staying at the shelter. All of these contribute to more stress, anxiety, illnesses, etc. Something as simple as a cold ends up takes weeks to recover from because of the extreme conditions they have to live in every day. So, thank God for warmer temperatures giving some comfort to all!
To give you an idea of what some of these people have lived through this winter, I’ll give you some examples. One friend of ours recently had a stroke, making one side of his body virtually immobile. He can still walk but it is a struggle. Living with this would be tough in normal circumstances, but now consider the large amount of snow, the crowded shelter, the need to be out of the shelter for 12 hours every day, and you can only imagine how tough it’s been for him. Thankfully, several other people staying at the shelter have been helping him whenever they can.
Another friend of ours has had a cold and respiratory issues all winter.. Making it worse for him is the fact that he has been at the shelter a long time, which means that when the shelter is over capacity he can’t stay, so he ends up walking most of the night to try to stay warm and then will try to get some sleep during the day. Imagine trying to get over an illness in that situation! I so wish that we could be of more help to these people, nobody should have to live like this, especially in a country as rich and well-off as ours.
The Street Ministry is coming up on it’s 6th birthday in June. I think I’ve been a part of it for at least 4 winters now (I’ve lost count), and we all agree that this has been the roughest winter we’ve seen out on the street. The number of people who are homeless has grown, and resources for them are declining. Prayers for our homeless friends are important and more people certainly can become involved. Volunteer for organizations like Community Table or Feed my People.. We can always use donations of clothes. Volunteer with one of the many groups that are trying to end homelessness or just help people in poverty. Feel free to become more active to make your community a better place!
And finally I want to thank all our volunteers and donors. You kept us supplied with boots, thermals, hand warmers, and many more items to help us aid those stuck outside this winter. We have alsohave had a great group of student volunteers from the University Wisconsin Eau Claire that have been extremely helpful these last several months. Thankfully the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd has given us a large space for storage, so we are already working on storing supplies for next winter – feel free to drop off any items that you think would be of use to our friends on the street!
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Notes, Thoughts and Reflections: April 21 2018
It's been a long and tough five and half month winter that our friends on the street have had to endure this last season. They have been holding out hope for some considerable time that the weather would moderate and so this last week it seems there is reason to believe that better temperatures are ahead. Even though this past winter has been brutal, they have, for the most part put a good face on what they've have had to endure. There are more then a few of our friends that the winter has left scars both mentally and physically, especially among our elderly who have problems navigating in the best of weather. Those with walkers and wheelchairs and also those who have lived outside most of the winter have especially suffered. Falling on the snow and ice has incapacitated some and depression has taken a tow on others. The street ministry is now finally starting to switch out winter clothes for spring and summer clothing in our vans.
On occasion we are asked what our guiding philosophy or theology is on the street. Theologically, the bible references over 2000 verses referring to poverty and justice and many more that refer to suffering and the hope of liberation. One of the unforgivable sins of the old testament was failing to offer hospitality to the stranger or sojourner and in the new testament a very strong emphasis is put on caring for the least of our sisters and brothers in need.
We believe church starts outside of the walls of the actual building/sanctuary. We believe in taking the church to where people are present. We form relationships with our friends on the street and we want to hear their story because for some their story is all they have. In June we will be celebrating our 6th year working on the street here in the Chippewa Valley and we have heard a wealth of stories and the hopes and dreams of many of our friends to find liberation in a sometime
Below is a journal written by Michelle one of our long time volunteers which reflects on that very theology and philosophy talked about above.
-Mike - street pastor
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - April 2018
How do I begin to describe this heartache? I was on my way to church Wednesday evening and spotted her sitting on the sidewalk, crying. I turned the car around & went back to talk with her. She spoke so fast I had trouble understanding, but eventually understood she had left her things in someone’s vehicle and they were gone. She had the clothes on her back and a cup of coffee in her hand. No other clothing, no phone or anyone’s number, no ID, no money or bus pass – nothing.
I called Pastor Mike and we retrieved a sleeping bag, blanket, hooded sweatshirt, stocking cap and some snacks and water and returned to the spot where I’d spoken to her earlier. I asked if I could take her somewhere and ended up dropping her off next to a locked storage building she insisted held her belongings. I hugged her a long time and we both cried, and then I cried all the way to church.
Two years ago I sat with her as she was interviewed for housing assistance. She reluctantly told about being mistreated, beaten, raped, and being drug-addicted and suicidal. I was heartbroken then, but grateful to know she would be in permanent shelter with someone checking on her. But her demons continued and eventually she lost housing assistance and returned to the streets.
The first time I saw her after she began staying at the shelter I was appalled. Her speech was nearly impossible to understand. She was so thin I wondered how she could carry her huge backpack. She was tired and sick and more broken than I’d ever seen her. I’ve seen her since then, from time to time this winter, but not often. Sometimes she’d stay at the shelter, sometimes she’d find a place to lay her head elsewhere and sometimes she found no shelter at all.
I woke up worrying about her Thursday morning. Had she found a place to lay her head? When I’d seen her the day before her hands were gray with frostbite. Her fingers were cracked and sore. That afternoon I got a call from Pastor Mike. She was at a local church and they couldn’t understand what she was saying. Could I come to help? I left work and drove downtown. She was sitting in a chair, cup of water in one hand, cookie in the other and she was raving. She was wearing the sweatshirt and hat I’d given her the day before.
Again, she spoke so fast it was difficult to understand her. She was still unable to locate her belongings. She was upset about having no place to stay – she’d had to use a bathroom overnight but there was nowhere to go and she’d wet her pants. She had prescriptions waiting at the store, and we convinced her to get in my car. As we drove to the store she continued to worry about her belongings. I was at a loss as to how to help her. She threw what I can only call a tantrum at the store when she received only 2 prescriptions and not the ones she wanted. The pharmacist was unable to understand what she was saying, but offered kind words as she explained how to take the meds. I drove back downtown and dropped her off, again wishing I could do more. I cried as I drove back to work, wondering where she’d spend the night.
She’s been kicked out of the shelter for her behavior. She said she’s not allowed at the library. Yes, some of her situation is the result of her decisions, but some is the result of the trauma she’s experienced and some is her mental health. Where is she this weekend? I’m haunted with this question knowing how much snow we’ve gotten and how hard the wind is blowing. What more can I do? How can I help? What more can any of us do? And she is not alone.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - April 2018
Happy to have been able to attend a scholarship award breakfast with Kelly, one of our student volunteers. Kelly submitted an essay about her volunteering with the street ministry and received an award, part of which she is to designate to her preferred charity. We are grateful for her efforts and for choosing the street ministry for the donation. Congratulations and thank you, Kelly!
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal Tues - April 3, 2018
Spring is here and so is the snow! The temperature was around 32° while we were out on the street and the snow was falling steadily. We all noted that the parking lot where we set up was sloppy and slushy. Jake and Dean shoveled a few times to keep the area clear and we had to wipe off the table we use several times as the snow built up. Also braving the snow were Beth, Sam, Barb, Brent, Chuck and Pastor Mike. Fortunately it wasn't frigid and most importantly, we were there as our friends expect us to be. Gloves and boots were provided, hoodies and coats were given out, as well.
We didn't have a lot of visitors tonight, perhaps because of the weather, perhaps we're seeing a shift of people needing services. Either way, I was able to observe more than other days when we're so busy that we miss some of the visits. I watched Beth work with a young woman in need of shoes, her old ones in poor shape were dripping wet from the slush on the sidewalks. The woman was very emotional when she put the dry, more comfortable shoes on.
The man that I've mentioned previously that has had a stroke came by, this time he seemed quite despondent. He was supposed to have an appointment for housing and when I asked how it had gone, he shrugged his shoulders and then got into a car. I'd hoped he would have gotten housing assistance and off the street, he's very vulnerable out there.
Two women we've known for several years came by, one has permanent shelter but still comes to visit and the other stays at the shelter. They are both in their 50's, I'd guess. A few weeks ago they announced that they are going to school at local technical college, one for her GED and the other for other studies. These women are rightfully so incredibly proud of themselves. We have provided school supplies to them and are eager to hear their stories from week to week. One of the women was very disappointed that her classes were cut short due to the weather, she cannot wait to go there daily and has plans to further her education once she completes her GED.
All in all, it was a good evening despite the snow and wind. I'm including a few pictures of our volunteers.
Thank you for your support, kind words and donations! Please take a look at the needs list and contact us with questions.
-Karen - Nurse/Social Worker